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Title at stake (maybe) for K-State against Texas

Title at stake (maybe) for K-State against Texas

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) There will be a time not long from now that Kansas State's players will gather to reflect on the season, one that's brought unimaginable joy along with soul-crushing heartache.

It's not that time just yet.

Despite a loss two weeks ago to Baylor that knocked the seventh-ranked Wildcats from national title consideration, they still have plenty to play for Saturday against No. 23 Texas: The third conference championship in school history and an automatic BCS bowl berth.

Not a bad consolation prize for a team expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the Big 12, but that rose to No. 1 in the BCS standings before that lousy night in Waco.

``I haven't reflected back on the season. I haven't reflected forward,'' Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said this week. ``I have reflected on our most recent game and our preparation for the game coming up. That's where my attention has been.''

It certainly hasn't been on No. 12 Oklahoma, which plays TCU earlier Saturday.

If the Sooners lose to the Horned Frogs, the Wildcats (10-1, 7-1) will already have wrapped up at least a share of the Big 12 championship and, due to tiebreakers, the BCS bid, long before Collin Klein and the rest of the senior class is introduced to a sellout crowd.

``It's going to be an emotional day for me,'' said Klein, who is widely expected to be invited to New York City next week for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

``I know being around here now for, this is my fifth year, you see a lot of players enter and exit in their tenure, and now my time has come in that sense, and that's not an easy thing,'' Klein said. ``I have so many fond memories of my time here. It's going to be hard.''

The Sooners are comfortable favorites to beat TCU, which means the Wildcats are certainly preparing for the Longhorns (8-3, 5-3) as if they'll need to win themselves.

Kansas State's only Big 12 title came in 2003, when it beat then-No. 1 Oklahoma when the conference still had a championship game. Its only other league title came in 1934, during the old Big Six days, when Lynn ``Pappy'' Waldorf was the coach.

More common have been the kind of losing seasons that brought Snyder to Manhattan, Kan., in the late-1980s, and brought him back from a brief retirement a few years ago.

``We've just been fortunate, and it's been good fortune,'' Snyder said. ``We've played well most of the time, but again, Texas is the dominant football program and you have to have good fortune to beat teams like that, and particularly in this conference.''

There is plenty at stake besides the championship, too.

Start with Klein, who until a couple of poor showings - including a disastrous three-interception game against Baylor - was the Heisman frontrunner. Now, he may need to play the best game of his career to upstage Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who won't have the chance to impress voters Saturday with their regular seasons already finished.

``It's hard to get away from that stuff,'' Klein said, ``especially in this day and age, with social media and everything around, but it's just a matter of being the best I possibly can.''

The Wildcats have beaten the Longhorns four straight times, so for Texas, there's the desire to put an end to several years' worth of frustration.

``I watched a couple of those games,'' Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. ``They're a great-coached team. They come to play each and every week. I feel like they're mature guys. They play each and every week with a lot of intensity. It's kind of crazy to see our record against them.

``We can go out and change that,'' Diggs said. ``I have three more years to play these guys. I hope to change that while I'm here.''

The Longhorns, who plan to start Case McCoy over David Ash at quarterback, also will be trying to improve their bowl destination. They're tied for third in the Big 12 with Oklahoma State, which plays Baylor on Saturday and beat Texas earlier this season.

``We're going in as underdogs,'' Texas offensive lineman Mason Walters said. ``Kansas State has played good ball almost all year long. They're a talented team. They're an experienced team. Great quarterback, really solid defense. I really think this week is more about accepting the challenge and going out and putting everything you have on the line.

``Your pride is put out there,'' Walters said. ``They're a team that can blow you out, or you can go out and give yourself a chance to win. Last time I went to Manhattan, it wasn't a fun experience. Last year we had a close game here where we fought hard. I expect more something like that. We're going to give everything we have for this regular-season game.''

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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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